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Jan 11, 2008

S.S.B. and private providers sign 2-year N.H.I. contracts

Story PictureIt was a busy day at the Social Security Board Belize City office as the fund officially signed a second set of contracts for healthcare under N.H.I. and responded to political accusations of improper service to contributors. News Five’s Janelle Chanona has the details.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Three weeks after contracts between the Social Security Board and public sector providers were signed, today eight private companies agreed to provide health care under the National Health Insurance scheme.

Margaret Ventura, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Health
“We look forward to an excellent working relationship with the private sector and encourage you to join us in our quest to improve the quality of healthcare delivery in Belize.”

Signing today were five primary health care providers who are working in Las Flores Belmopan, Roaring Creek, Burrell Boom, and the villages of Progresso and San Narciso in Corozal. The contracts also include one for a laboratory and two pharmacies, one in Sandhill and another in Orange Walk.

Michel Chebat, Chairman, S.S.B.
“Each contract depends upon the population that they would be serving, but the contracts are for a two year period.”

Janelle Chanona
“I know there has been some criticism as to signing two year contracts now. What would be your rationale?”

Michel Chebat
“Well, I think we must take into consideration that these are private individuals who’d be making an investment to start up these clinics. It is their investment, this is their part to it and the committee looked at the one year period and they felt it was only fair, considering the kind of investment they would be making, to have to have the contract extended to a two year period.”

Janelle Chanona
“And the checks and balances that would be made to insure that there is quality being distributed?”

Michel Chebat
“Yes, well there is an audit team that will be visiting all of these clinics to insure that they are complying with all of the standards that are set out in the contract and there is provision in the contracts for termination after a year if they do not comply with the standards that are set. So there is that provision there.”

Janelle Chanona
“Did you give me a number for the value of the contracts?”

Michel Chebat
“No I did not give you a number because it depends on if they are in the urban or they are in the rural area and it depends on the population that they will be covering. But on an average it is about six dollars and sixty cents per patient, on average.”

But as the S.S.B. promoted its involvement in the N.H.I. scheme, the fund also responded to allegations made by the United Democratic Party that it denied benefit payments to a legitimate contributor.

Dr. Louis Zabaneh, C.E.O., Social Security Board
“In the case of this gentleman, S.S.B. is clearly at fault, there is no question about that. He made his request and it was delayed. A part of transformation is that you look at yourself and know where your faults are and you make your corrections. He is one of a number of people, it’s not just him. There are a number of people who are missing contributions: teachers, public servants, workers and it’s gonna take a lot because consider from 1981 to now how much records are there and to go through that whole process and look at all the–we have about ninety thousand people in the labour force and to go through all of that is not a job that will be done overnight. Our team has just been there since September. I think it’s only fair to give us a chance for us to work on these things and we need more time, we can’t just have done it in two or three months.”

According to Zabaneh, since September, thirty S.S.B. employees have been reviewing records in an effort to find or verify missing documentation. Today the C.E.O. called on the U.D.P. not to attack his staff.

Dr. Louis Zabaneh
“To take one case, we’ve dealt with over a million cases last year in 2007 and to say that because, where we have about a hundred and ninety-six dollars that have not been paid to this gentleman and to say that that makes S.S.B. a chancy institution, I think that is very unfair.”

Janelle Chanona
“So in the meantime then, what would your message be to contributors, especially those who have gotten denial letters?”

Dr. Louis Zabaneh
“Absolutely. Please go to the branches, kindly if you can, write it on paper what period you have missing, lodge your complaints at the office. We have these thirty members of staff who are working fulltime, they are spread throughout the country and we will do our best to get to you as quickly as possible. But if you know that you have missing contributions, it would help us quite a bit for you to come and tell us that you do and we are gonna be working on it very diligently.”

But alongside the S.S.B. ad, another U.D.P. commercial singles out Zabaneh as the owner of substantial lands in Cotton Tree Village.

Dr. Louis Zabaneh
“In my kind of business, which is farming, we need land. Other businesses may need a building because maybe they give services but my business is land. And so I have nothing to be ashamed of that I applied for the land and I got the land. But I am very concerned that the message that it will be sending to potential investors is that in Belize we may not have certainty in the future. This is something very serious, because the amount of employment we will need to deal with people coming into the labour force could be affected adversely if we don’t have the investment coming in to compliment what we have here, which is land and people.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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